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“Bond, James Bond.”

2010/08/26

This is marvelous.  The American Spectator’s Frank Schell asks a great question:

How do you kick an urbane superspy in the groin — especially when he’s already down? Ask John le Carré.

UK Telegraph: “James Bond was a neo-fascist gangster, says John Le Carré

Frank Schell responds:  “This unprovoked ad hominem attack on an imaginary persona…

Pardon a few technical errors here, dear reader, but perhaps Bond was not so imaginary, and the attack not so unprovoked. Please allow me to “pile-on”. My hunch is that le Carré’s whining is a cocktail of envy and cognitive dissonance shaken by a number of irreconcilable discrepancies.

Ian Fleming

Firstly, Ian Fleming – and Roald Dahl and William Stephenson (Intrepid) – worked alongside macho cowboys and commandos when they weren’t in the role themselves. Fleming’s ‘Bond’ was an amalgam of real agents, who, like Fleming and Dahl, had red-blooded testosterone, trained commando skills and a taste for foie gras.

Mr. Cornwell’s (le Carré) ‘George Smiley’ is a brilliant character portrait of the elite manipulator that too, exists. Yet even with all their authority and intelligence, desk-jockies doesn’t see the action or take the risks of field boys. One has a difficult time writing convincingly of action one has never taken. Worse, manipulation is viewed as somewhat feminine, whereas action is seen as masculine.

Then there is the political discrepancy: Under Stephenson, the British intelligence services, including Fleming, were in-tune with Churchill… whereas le Carré has far greater sympathies for the likes of Jack Profumo and the Cambridge Cluster. So much so that it’s wryly humorous for le Carré to denounce Bond as “neo-fascistic and totally materialist.”

Another character distinction: Intrepid’s agents, like Fleming’s, would rather bed babes than diddle the college don. Le Carré’s hero ‘Magnus Pym’ seems oddly autobiographical, yet his passions apparently lie with the other team, so to speak.

Frank Schell has it nailed, cold shut: To add final crass insult to old injuries, Fleming and Dahl have enjoyed tremendous artistic and commercial successes. Le Carré’s ‘George Smiley’ “never ascended to the empyreal heights as did Bond“. Exactly so.

One also wonders if Fleming once bested a much younger le Carré at whist at a London club”… Is Barclay’s a club?

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